The virus returned to China by plane. On July 10, Air China’s CA910 from Moscow landed in Nanjing, east China. One of the passengers was infected with the Delta variant and was apparently able to board the plane despite extensive testing before departure. After landing, the machine was cleaned and disinfected, and one of the cleaning staff was infected – despite having been vaccinated. From the airport, the corona virus spread again in the country: in Beijing, Shanghai, even Xinjiang, deep in the west on the border with Kazakhstan, diseases were suddenly reported. There are only a few hundred cases, but the excitement is high in China, it is the worst outbreak since the containment of Wuhan.
Gradually, more and more voices in China are gently suggesting a change of course, the end of the zero case strategy that you have to learn to live with Corona. However, that does not make a fuss: over the past year and a half, propaganda has drummed on the Chinese that only the People’s Republic is safe from the insidious virus. The only chance to guarantee this is: tight borders. Travel between China and the rest of the world has hardly taken place since the spring of 2020. Only a handful of planes are allowed to land in China each day. After that, you must be in hotel quarantine for at least two weeks; if you want to go to Beijing, you must stay away from the capital for at least three weeks after landing.
New passports are only available in exceptional cases
It is becoming a problem for many international companies in China. Who else should you send as a manager when your vacation home suddenly takes months and every business trip to Europe results in weeks of isolation? For many Chinese, the restrictions are even more severe and the authorities only issue new passports in exceptional cases. Those who are not traveling cannot bring the virus into the country.
Zero Covid is and remains the reason of state. Corona must be cracked down, is Beijing’s order. Governors and mayors are therefore meticulous in ensuring that no clusters are created in their provinces and cities – a mini-break is enough and the cadre is out of business. Often a single case is enough, schools and kindergartens are closed and mass tests are ordered. In a few days, millions of Chinese will have to undergo a throat swab. In order to manage the workload, the tests take place in public places, sometimes even in stadiums. Ten samples are then always analyzed at once in the laboratory in order to save time. If there is a positive result, everyone has to start over.
In general, contact tracing is defined very broadly. If, for example, an infected person walked into an office tower or visited a shopping mall, everyone who was in the same place on the same day is usually quarantined. This also applies to the Meishan Terminal in Ningbo Port, 150 kilometers south of Shanghai, the third largest container port in the world and a gateway for Chinese exports such as furniture, housewares, toys. and auto parts that are shipped to the United States. and European. Seven million containers are loaded at the Meishan Terminal every year. The plant has been inactive since August 11 after a worker tested positive for Corona.
Health officials in southern China’s Shenzhen metropolis acted strictly in May and temporarily closed the Yantian International Container Terminal. A good ten percent of Chinese export goods are normally loaded in Shenzhen: computers, microwaves, air conditioning systems. In the first two weeks of June, a total of 298 container ships with a capacity of more than three million containers were unable to call in Shenzhen. The damage was greater than the spring jam in the Suez Canal. How devastating the emergency shutdown in Ningbo will be will depend on when operations restart.
Many companies in Germany are feeling the effects of the crisis
However, the effects are already being felt in Germany: material bottlenecks and higher costs are causing problems for many companies. According to a survey by the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) of nearly 3,000 companies, 83% complain about price increases or problems with the delivery of raw materials, intermediate products and goods. “Current developments may make the process of economic recovery significantly more difficult after the crisis,” said Volker Treier, director of foreign trade at DIHK. Three quarters of the companies surveyed are grappling with a shortage of containers and a lack of freight capacity. The partial closure of the port of Ningbo hit the German economy at a time when it was already facing serious delivery problems.
The lockdown has so far not hurt the Chinese economy, on the contrary: from April to June, the second largest economy grew 7.9% year-on-year. In total, growth for the first half was 12.7%. “In general, the economy recovered steadily during the first half of the year,” the Beijing statistics bureau said. However, the authority also warns of uneven economic development in the country and the untold effects of the pandemic in other countries. For the whole of 2021, the World Bank now expects growth of 8.5% in an ongoing study. The Chinese government is more cautious, with Premier Li Keqiang announcing a target of “over six percent” in his opening speech to the National People’s Congress in March.
8.5 or 6%? Beijing officials have provided an appropriate buffer in the numbers, which allows for the closure of ports and the forced quarantine of millions of people. There is currently no end in sight for the lockdown.